Justin Ivey, Co-Editor and NLL Correspondent
Lacrosse is Awesome©
The Colorado Mammoth knew what had to be done Saturday night at the sold-out Loud House. Buffalo took Game 1 last week, and a loss meant the season was over. Before the game began it was announced that Eli McLaughlin would be scratched with an injury, a huge blow to Colorado. The team pushed through and persevered though and captured the win to extend the series to a decisive Game 3. Led by an amazing effort in net from Dillon Ward (40 SV), Colorado held Buffalo to under 10 goals. On the offensive side they were led by Zed Williams ($G, 3A) and Connor Robinson (3G, 1A). Final Score: Buffalo-8, Colorado-11.
The first quarter started with both defenses throwing uppercuts. Hard hits, sticks in the passing lanes and tight formations limited both teams’ opportunities in the offensive zone. Opposite the turf from Ward, who did not give up a goal to Buffalo’s high-powered offense in the first, Mat Vinc (33 SV) only allowed one ball to pass him by. Williams dug to the crease and pushed off his defender to get open. Dylan Kinnear (1G, 3A) saw him open and fired a pass that Williams squeaked past Vinc’s shoulder. The goal 2:47 into the game was the only score of the first quarter. At the end of one, Colorado led Buffalo 1-0.
Robinson put Colorado up two goals early in the second. Ben McIntyre (2G, 4A) found him coming off the bench and Robinson released a high shot around some traffic to find the net. Finally, the Buffalo offense broke through 4:30 into the second quarter. Dhane Smith (2G, 1A) threw some stick fakes running towards the crease and got Ward off his line before scoring amid three defenders. The goal ignited the Bandits. Veteran defender Steve Priolo (1A) threw a nasty no look flip back in transition to a streaking Ian MacKay (1G, 2A) to tie the game with seven minutes remaining in the half. Smith added another a minute later, before Josh Byrne (2G, 2A) extended the lead to two 26 seconds after that. 59 seconds later, on a power play opportunity, Chris Cloutier (2G, 1A) made it a five-goal run for the visitors. With under five minutes remaining in the half, Buffalo had a 5-2 lead. In six minutes of game time, a two-goal deficit flipped to a three-goal lead. Williams answered for the Mammoth to end the run there. He wrapped around a high screen and lasered a side arm shot. Air Byrne made an appearance for Buffalo as Josh scored jumping into the crease for a highlight reel goal with just 50 seconds remaining. Robinson was able to get his second goal of the night with just two seconds on the clock, launching a rocket from two yards inside the restraining line on the late six on five opportunity. At the half, Buffalo led Colorado 6-4.
Defenses went back to work in the third quarter, but it took them a few minutes to get settled. Three goals were scored quickly to start the second. Williams completed his hat trick 1:09 in, but on the next possession Cloutier put the Bandit lead back to two. Robinson cut it back to one with his hat trick goal at 3:33. Despite the tight Buffalo defense, Williams, and Robinson, were excelling at finding open creases. Neither team would break through for the remainder of the quarter. At the end of three, Buffalo led Colorado 8-7.
The fourth quarter started wonderfully for the Bandits. Kyle Buchanon (1G, 1A) crashed the net and in one motion picked up the rebound of a wide shot from Byrne before pushing the ball into the net as he flashed by the goal line. 46 seconds into the final 15 minutes, and Buffalo had a two-goal lead. The fans and Mammoth weren’t giving up. With the season on the line, the offense forced a rhythm. McIntyre scored just over three minutes in and just over a minute later Williams found the net for his fourth of the game. With just under 11 minutes left, the game was now tied at eight. The roll continued and Ward kept every attempt from Buffalo out of the net. Kinnear found the net 5:10 in and Tyson Gibson (1G, 3A) followed it up 7:47 in for his lone score of the game. McIntyre made it 11-8 is favor of Buffalo with 6:19 remaining and the defense closed the game out without allowing another Buffalo goal to force Game 3 in Buffalo next weekend. Final Score: Buffalo-8, Colorado-11.
The Buffalo Bandits will host the Colorado Mammoth on Saturday, June 18 at 7:30 PM EST for the decisive Game 3.